My struggle with an air marshal

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My struggle with an air marshal

I once tangled with an air marshal on a flight into Washington, D.C. He hit me with his gun, then we struggled over it, which thwarted his speedy exit.

This comes to mind amid news that President Joe Biden plans to leave 99% of flights without marshals during the holidays. He’s diverting them to the Mexican border in hope of making his disastrous neglect of illegal immigration look marginally better.

But marshals dislike being used as pawns, and some will refuse their assignments driving, feeding, and caring for the illegal immigrants, as the Washington Examiner exclusively reported.

The president’s move raises several questions. Why is it necessary to beef up a border that the administration keeps claiming is “secure?” Why drain the marshals’ presence to just an eighth of its usual level during peak travel season? Had marshals become unnecessary, and if so, why were taxpayers continuing to fund a redundant service? If it wasn’t redundant, why end most of this anti-terrorist protection?

By now you might be asking, what about the struggle with a marshal and his gun?

It was maybe 20 years ago. I had the middle seat in an emergency exit row. A young man with a short haircut and brisk movements boarded the plane late, wearing a jacket that covered his hip.

As he sat down abruptly in the aisle seat beside me, the back of my left hand received an unusually hard blow from a distinctly solid object. A pained and puzzled look probably passed over my face. I rubbed my hand. My neighbor folded his jacket over his lap so it came down under the armrest.

I thought nothing of it until 2 minutes before we landed at Reagan airport. That was when my neighbor took out his phone and checked his email, which, as I watched, quickly filled up with messages from the FBI. The penny dropped — his energetic movements, his somewhat military haircut, the crack of his pistol on the back of my hand, his incoming emails. I got it.

When he tried to stand — I can’t remember if it was before or after we landed — he got halfway up and was yanked back into his seat. He tried again, with the same result. We both looked down and saw, to his chagrin, that the black metal handle of his pistol in its holster was tangled in my seat belt.

“Hang on,” I said, “let me free your gun.” He looked embarrassed but thanked me. “I assume you’re an air marshal,” I said. He nodded. “I’m a journalist,” I said. His face fell. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a story.” He looked relieved, said thanks, and left.

The statute of limitations has run out on my assurance to the marshal. I wasn’t promising to take the secret of our mix-up to the grave. I was just letting him know I wasn’t going to get him into trouble.

Most people don’t know as clearly as I did then that a marshal is on their flight. But they probably like the possibility. And they surely prefer thinking they’re on board, ready to confront bad guys, than down on the Rio Grande nannying people who shouldn’t be there.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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